SC Issues Notice on Its Plea Against CJI in RTI Ambit

New Delhi
SC Issues Notice on Its Plea Against CJI in RTI Ambit
The Supreme Court today sought a response from an RTI activist on an appeal filed by it challenging a Delhi High Court verdict holding that the office of the Chief Justice of India came within the ambit of the transparency law and was liable to reveal information under it.

A bench of Justices B S Reddy and S S Nijjar granted four weeks time to the activist, S C Agrawal, on whose plea the High Court had delivered the major judgement on January 12, this year, to file his response.

The petition, which has been filed by the apex court registry, raised the point that information held by the CJI is sensitive in nature and its revelation would hamper the judiciary's independence.

The registry, however, did not seek immediate stay on the High Court ruling.

In its landmark verdict, the Delhi High Court had held that the office of the Chief Justice of India came under the purview of the RTI Act and rejected a Supreme Court appeal, saying judicial independence is not a judge's personal privilege but a responsibility cast upon him.

The verdict was seen as a setback to Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan who has consistently been maintaining that his office does not come under the transparency law and, hence, it cannot part with information like disclosure of judges' assets under it.

Holding that the CJI is a public authority under the Act, a full bench of the High Court headed by then Chief Justice A P Shah had said judges of the superior courts should make public their assets as they are not "less accountable" than the judicial officers of lower courts who are bound by service rules to declare assets.

The bench dismissed the plea of the Supreme Court which had vehemently opposed bringing the CJI's office within the purview of the Act on the ground that it would encroach into its judicial independence.

"Judicial independence is not the personal privilege or prerogative of the individual Judge," the bench had said in its ruling.
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